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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

July 25, 2007 at 10:04 AM

Misery loves company

To “Big Ebu” down below, here’s my take on Adam Jones or any prospect for Dontrelle Willis. By the way, the Palm Beach Post reports that the M’s had a scout at Willis’ start on Monday night. Scroll to the very bottom of the story.
On to the post…
Yes, misery does love company, that is true. And the Mariners do have plenty of company on their recent slide to nowhere. That in itself should give M’s fans something to take comfort in. This five-game losing streak, bad as it’s looked, hasn’t cost Seattle very much in the division race at all. Just 1 1/2 games. Of course, the wild-card race may be slipping out of the M’s grasp, since the New York Yankees appear to be kicking it into that second-half gear they seem to always locate. Think they won’t deal at the deadline? I honestly thought this would be the year the Yankees couldn’t do it. But the Mariners just allowed them to make up five games of ground in less than a week.
This isn’t really the stuff playoff dreams are built on.
Perhaps the AL West truly is reverting to previous form as the league’s weakest division? I had thought that title belonged to the AL East this year, but the second-half is where it counts. Of good news to the M’s under such a scenario, the Angels can’t seem to pull themselves out of their slide. That’s just bizarre to me, given how good their remaining three starters are. Just not good enough to undo yet another winter of puzzzling inaction by GM Bill Stoneman on the hitting front.
“It’s nothing you can pinpoint,” Robb Quinlan tells the OC Register. “You go through it over the year. We’re working hard. We’re battling. The balls aren’t falling.”
Look over here at the LA Times, talking about silver linings and using the “at least the bullpen got some rest” line. Hey, didn’t the M’s just use that when Jeff Weaver got snakebit for that 1-0 loss on the weekend? When did the Angels become the Mariners, or vice-versa?
Hey, Stoney? (Bill, not Larry). Wake up! I mean, if I was owner Arte Moreno, I’d be getting really ticked off at spending all this money to assemble a lights-out bullpen and above average rotation (or is it the other way around?) only to again see my team’s playoff hopes in danger because my GM simply can’t go out and acquire another impact bat for, what is it now, the past three years?
Hello? Anybody home? M’s fans think they are the only ones in the AL West frustrated by a GM? Believe me, the heat is on in Anaheim to find some hitters who can go deep other than Vladimir Guerrero. Because he’s not doing it at an MVP rate like he was earlier in the year. Even great pitching needs minimal offense to work and the Angels have dipped below that minimum.
So have the Mariners in recent outings.
As we keep mentioning, you can’t expect to win regularly in the AL without scoring more than four runs per game. Score exactly four and you’ll win close to as many as you lose. Score fewer than four and you’ll likely lose. Once again, the Mariners are 5-8 since the All-Star Break. They have scored more than four only four times — one of them because of three meaningless ninth-inning runs the other night.
Seattle has scored fewer than four runs in seven of those games, going 1-6. The M’s are 2-0 when scoring just four, so they’ve gotten off a little easy in that department. But the team is also 2-2 when scoring at least five runs. In those games, the pitching has let them down.
This offense, as we know, is very streaky and is on a downward cycle right now. I do expect it to pick back up soon and the pitching staff has to be ready to take full advantage when that happens. That hasn’t always been the case. I still think this team’s primary need is on the pitching front, especially the starting rotation. I’m thrilled that Jeff Weaver has turned his game around but the fact remains that neither he nor Horacio Ramirez has won a single game on the road this season.
In Weaver’s case, it’s a matter of some recent bad luck. In Ramirez’s case, it’s just bad pitching. But you can’t have that. I don’t know of any other contending team that can say that two of its five opening day starters have yet to win even a single road game. How can that be?
This team also lacks a losing streak “stopper”. We’ve now seen this team go through three different losing streaks of at least five games this season. That’s once through the rotation each time, no stopper in sight. There comes a time when a contending team has to produce a starter who can hold a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning when it really needs to. Or doesn’t give back a 2-0 lead as quickly as Ramirez did the other night. I know the law of averages says a starting pitcher will lose most of the time when his team scores three runs or less. But it would be nice if the M’s could buck that trend once in a while.
When Miguel Batista is the closest thing you have to a stopper — a guy who can’t go seven innings more than once every five weeks — you know you’re in trouble. But to be honest, Batista is the guy I most want on the mound tonight. His ability to allow two runs or less in his six, or six-plus innings, gives this team its best chance at winning the way the offense is going right now. Weaver is also looking more like that guy, at least in his ability to go seven or more innings since coming off the DL.
Even a middle-to-back end guy will make this rotation better if one of the five guys can’t win on the road. Ramirez insists the home-away thing is not a factor in his outings. Mike Hargrove used to say much the same thing, claiming a small sample size in regards to Ramirez. Small or not, we are now four sixths of the way into the season. It’s time to deliver a sample in the opposite direction if one wants to make the small size claim. The Angels got fed up with waiting for results from Ervin Santana on the road and sent him to Class AAA.
There are an untold number of trade rumors out there involving the Mariners and pitching. As I’ve mentioned before, acquiring a proven reliever as a set-up guy in the eighth wouldn’t hurt this team either. The offense? Unless you can teach this entire team to double its walks total overnight, they are what they are. Come next week, they could be smoking the ball all over the park and storm into first place ahead of the Angels. But it won’t last forever. And this pitching staff has to capitalize on the hot bats when they are hot. Or at least mediocre. No more wasting any games when Seattle puts up six or seven runs.
Otherwise, when the offensive downturns come, as they have now, this team will keep drifting back towards that .500 level so many pundits and computers say it should be at because of its small run differential. To buck the trend, the team has to get better. And it starts on the mound, not with the bats. There are a handful of intertnal solutions that could potentially bolster the offense. But I expect this streakiness to continue all season — Adam Jones or no Adam Jones.
Ultimately, I still believe this division will be won on the mound. If the Angels can upgrade offensively, which is far easier to do than on the pitching front, they still have the mound horses to outdistance Seattle over the long haul. Any improvements Bill Bavasi can make on the mound between now and next Tuesday will help this team’s cause. Oh yeah, and at least bring Jones up in the next five minutes.
But hey, at least the Angels — and Indians, if not the Yankees — have bought him some time.

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